January 25, 2022

Andal – From a little girl to a Goddess!

The Margazhi month is synonymous with Andal who is the only woman saint among the 12 Alvars who rose from being a little girl to becoming a goddess.
Keywords: Andal, Goddess, Saint, Margazhi, Krishna, Tamizh, Gita, Festivals
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The Indian month corresponding to the period of mid-December to mid-January is considered highly auspicious and most beautiful month in the Tamizh Calendar. Known as The Margazhi Month, its significance is announced by none other than Bhagavan Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: –

बृहत्साम तथा साम्नां गायत्री छन्दसामहम I

मासानां मार्गशीर्षोऽहमृतूनां कुसुमाकर:II

 “……among the months, I am Margazhi !”

(The Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10, verse 35)

The whole Margazhi month is spent in undertaking spiritual initiatives, dedicated only to the worship of deities to the exclusion of celebrating any festivals or functions.

The Margazhi month is synonymous with Andal who is the only woman saint among the 12 Alvars who rose from being a little girl to becoming a goddess. Alvars (ஆழ்வார்கள்) are Tamizh poet saints who showed their ecstatic devotion to Bhagavan Vishnu by “immersing or diving deep” into their love for the Supreme.

An exemplary poetess, Andal is credited with 2 compilations – Tiruppavai & Naachiyaar Thirumozhi. Tiruppavai (திருப்பாவை) is sung & celebrated every day in the month of Margazhi, and the hymn begins with the word Margazhi! The text consists of 30 verses/paras (Paasurams) in praise of Thirumal (Lord Vishnu).

There are 4000 Paasuramsor devotional hymns sung by 12 Alvars, divided as Divya Prabandams – divine collections.

Nachiar Thirumozhi

“Thirumozhi literally means “Sacred Sayings” in a Tamil poetic style and “Nachiar” means goddess. Therefore, the title means “Sacred Sayings of the Goddess.” This poem fully reveals Andal’s intense longing for Vishnu, the divine beloved. Utilizing classical Tamil poetic conventions and interspersing stories from the Vedas and Puranas, Andal creates imagery that is possibly unparalleled in the whole gamut of Indian religious literature.

These 143 pasurams (verses) are organized in 14 segments and each one is called “Tirumozhi”. Each Tirumozhi is named after the first phrase of the first pasuram of that segment. The first Tirumozhi is called ‘tai oru tingalum’ (Tamil: தையொரு திங்கள்). Similarly, all the other Tirumozhis are named after the first phrase of the first pasuram. And each Tirumozhi deals with one specific topic.

Andals’ Tiruppavai of 30 verses, stands out because it is marked by clarity of content and dripped in the sweetness of her love for Sri.Krishna.

Andal composed Tiruppavaiwith such great Bhakti & Prema that her Tiruppavai paasurams are considered as an Upanishad in Tamizh.

The 30 verses are divided into 3 sections

Section 1

(Verses 1-5) Andal makes a vow of fasting for 30 days, prescribes dos & don’ts, and praises the lineage, valour, kindness of Bhagavan Narayana, in whose name the vows are taken.

Verse 1

மார்கழித் திங்கள் மதிநிறைந்த நன்னாளால்;

நீராடப் போதுவீர்! போதுமினோ, நேரிழையீர்!

சீர்மல்கும் ஆய்ப்பாடிச் செல்வச் சிறுமீர்காள்!

கூர்வேல் கொடுந்தொழிலன் நந்தகோபன் குமரன்,

ஏரார்ந்த கண்ணி யசோதை இளஞ்சிங்கம்,

கார்மேனிச் செங்கண் கதிர்மதியம் போல்முகத்தான்

நாரா யணனே, நமக்கே பறைதருவான்,

பாரோர் புகழப் படிந்தேலோ ரெம்பாவாய். (1)

Margazhi  thingal madhi niraindha nannalal               

On this full moon day in the auspicious month of Margazhi

Nirada podhuvir, podhumino neridaiyeer                 

Come along for a holy bath, those adorned with jewels

Seermalgum aayppadi ch chelva chirumeergal       

Oh! young girls of the prosperous town of Brindavan

Koorvel kodunthozhilan nandagopan kumaran    

the son of Nandagopan who wields a sharp spear(to protect baby Krishna)

Erarndha kannni yasodhai ilan singam                       

the young lion cub of Yashoda with the beautiful eyes

Karmeni chengann kadir madiyam pol mugathan   

  the dark-hued, red eyed Lord who shines like the Sun & Moon

Narayanane namakke parai tharuvan                      

 It’s only Narayana who will grant us boons

Paror pugazha p padinthelor empavai.               

Let us join with the world in praising His glory, Girls !            

Section 2

(Verses 6 – 15) Andal wakes up a group of girls and implores them to join the band going to the temple.

“Wake up early! No time to be lazy. Everlasting riches fill our lives, girls, when we wake up to the magic spell of Sriman Narayana ” – Andal.

Section 3 –

a. (Verses 16 -20) Andal and party reach the temple and gently wake up the Lord and His consort

b. (Verses 21- 28) They sing about His glories & importance of worship.

c. (Verse 29) Andal tells the reason for coming every day to the temple early morning and in final Verse 30, she gives the phalasruti – or the benefits of reciting the Tiruppavai.

All the verses are meant to motivate and cultivate firmness in the commitment to the completion of one’s pursuits. Since any activity is enhanced by a team of like-minded people, and inculcates appreciation for each other’s abilities. Andal thus inspires the young girls to worship as a group.

Purpose of Birth of Andal

Mother Earth- Bhu Devi, is believed to have incarnated as Andal for the love of Her children, to guide and inspire them towards the final goal of life – Realisation of the Supreme.

Andal ’s foster father Periyalvar had found baby Andal / Kodai, near a Tulasi plant in the temple garden of Lord Vatapathrashayi at Srivillipuththoor, Tamizh Nadu.

Periyalvar, a.k.a Vishnuchittar, was solely responsible for her knowledge and wisdom.

He raised her with the Lord’s stories and glories that filled her with unabashed love and devotion for Sri Ranganatha (Krishna)

Andal helped her father gather flowers for making garlands for the Lord. She felt that offering a garland to the Lord after she wore it would make it more fragrant. Actually, it did!

According to the legend, one day, like every other day, she had secretly worn the garland before her father took it to the temple. But on that day Periyalvar was shocked to find a strand of hair on the garland and refused to adorn the Lord with it because it was already used by someone else. The priest became crestfallen and angry when he found out that his own daughter, Andal had performed the inauspicious act of wearing the garland before offering it to the Lord. Soon after, the Lord appears in the mind of the priest and orders him to bring the garland back and put it on Him!

Although Andal was born in Kali Yuga sometime between the 5th and 9th century CE she always imagined herself wedding Lord Krishna born in Dwapara Yuga!

The Thiruppavai is a work in which Andal’s penanceand worship manifests. Eventually the Lord comes and takes her into His fold by making her his bride.

The Andal temple at Srivilliputhur,Tamizh Nadu, is located 75 km from Madurai, and is one of the 108 Divya Desams (the 108 Vishnu Temples). The birthplace of Goddess Andal is inside the temple premises. The temple also finds its place in the official emblem of the Tamizh Nadu government.

References:

Deities – Goddess Andal

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Pavithra Srinivasan

Pavithra Srinivasan is a Visiting Fellow of India Foundation. She is an acclaimed Bharatnatyam dancer, and founder of Arsha Kala Bharathi.

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